Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Holding An Importain Bridge

The Battle of Staunton River Bridge took place June 25th 1864 in Halifax and Charlotte Counties, Virginia.

As the Siege of Petersburg continued the Confederate troops had become dependent on supplies coming in on the Danville, Richmond and South Side Railroad lines.  Union General Ulysses S Grant knew that if those could be cut, the Confederates would have to abandon Petersburg.

On June 22nd 1864 Grant sent 5,000 cavalry and 16 pieces of artillery under the command of Union Brigadier Generals James H Wilson and August V Kautz to destroy those railroad lines.  Despite being harassed by Confederate Major General WHF Rooney Lee, the Union troops were able to destroy 60 miles of railway over three days.

They reached the Staunton River Bridge, along which ran the Richmond and Danville Railroad and was the vital supply line for the Confederates in Petersburg.  The bridge was being held by 296 Confederates under the command of Captain Benjamin L Farinholt.  Farinholt had received intelligence warning him of the Union approach, giving him time to request reinforcements.  The extra men; about 640, arrived on the morning of the battle June 24th 1864.  Knowing he was being watched Farinholt ordered the train station to his south to keep running a train, making it appear he was receiving a large number of troops.  Also helping along this impression was Mulberry Hill plantation owner Mrs. Nancy McPhail, who informed the Union commanders that there were 10,000 Confederate troops at the bridge.

At about 4pm on June 24th the Union troops arrived on the northern side of the Staunton River Bridge. Kauts had his cavalry dismounted and advanced.  They attempted to capture and hold the bridge long enough to set it on fire, but were quickly repulsed.  Other Union men occupied a ditch about 150 yards from the bridge, where they made several charges, sustaining heavy casualties, gaining no ground.  About sunset WHF Rooney Lee arrived on the scene, attacking Union troops in the rear.  This forced Wilson and Kautz to retreat.

The next morning Farinholt advanced into the vacated Union lines.  They buried 42 Union dead.

If you would like to read more about the BATTLE OF STAUNTON RIVER BRIDGE  this is a good place to start.

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